To propel song of summer,Tweet it maybe

Success of Carly Rae Jepsen’s song Call Me Maybe shows how much the hit-making machine has been upended by social media

Written by New York Times | Published: August 26, 2012 1:55 am

Pop radio would get it rolling before school let out,and soon the song would blare from car stereos everywhere. Then came singalongs as the song finally became ubiquitous around the Fourth of July. In 1987,it was Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” In 2003,Beyonce’s Crazy in Love.

But the success of this summer’s hit,Carly Rae Jepsen’s cheerfully flirty Call Me Maybe,shows how much the hit-making machine has been upended by social media. Only a year ago,the charts were dominated by stars who had come out of the old machine of radio and major-label promotion: Katy Perry,Rihanna,Adele,Maroon 5. This year’s biggest hits—Call Me Maybe,Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know and Fun’s We Are Young—were helped along by YouTube and Twitter before coming to the mainstream media.

For Call Me Maybe,which was No. 1 for nine weeks,the critical piece was YouTube. After Justin Bieber and friends posted a video of themselves lip-syncing to it in February,hundreds of fan tributes followed. Jepsen’s own video has been watched 212 million times,versions by Katy Perry,the Cookie Monster (Share It Maybe) and the US Olympic swim team turned it into a yearlong audiovisual meme.

A tribute version even brought the song to the attention of President Barack Obama. Nearly two-thirds of teenagers listen to music on YouTube,more than any other medium,Nielsen said last week. Jepsen said in a recent interview “the viral videos are what’s been the driving force for this. It’s a cool thing. It changes the game completely.”

YouTube,Twitter and Facebook are now record labels’ textbook tools for starting a marketing campaign. To introduce Cher Lloyd,a 19-year-old singer who was on The X Factor in Britain,Epic Records set up a “queen” fan to beat the drum on Twitter. “In this day and age,artist development is about how do you turn 10 Facebook likes into 100,into 1,000,” said Scott Seviour,Epic’s senior vice president for marketing.

The song catapulted Jepsen,apple-cheeked and giggly at 26,from obscurity to worldwide fame. “It’s supposed to be a fun song,” Jepsen said. “Not to take yourself too seriously,to put you in a good mood.”

Bieber’s role in popularising the song reflects the importance of both social media and old-fashioned celebrity promotion. On December 30,2011,he told his 15 million Twitter followers that Call Me Maybe was “possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol.”

The song’s trajectory also demonstrates the continuing power of radio. In March and April,when Call Me Maybe was getting tens of millions of views on YouTube,it still had relatively low radio play. It hit No. 1 on iTunes on May 27,but took almost a month to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s singles chart,

Call Me Maybe is a watershed case for the use of social media as a marketing tool,but the song’s success will be difficult to replicate—even for Jepsen. No matter how hard a record company might push,popularity online depends on the enthusiasm of individual fans.

The marketers behind Jepsen have worked to organise it to some degree,through tools like a Tumblr blog collecting fan tribute videos. Jepsen said she was not worrying about trying to line up another megahit,because that kind of success is never predictable.

“I never know what is a hit and what isn’t a hit,” she said. “I just write what feels natural and good. At the end of the day you just release it and hope for the best.”

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